Monday, October 14, 2013

Heartbroken | Where the Heart Is

Heartbroken | Where the Heart 

About three weeks ago I, my son and my Dad drove to the end of our road and walked into the forest there. We walked along a new track, made for trucks and heavy machinery. We met neighbours along the way, and strangers. We were stopped by some men in white utes who told us we were trespassing. We asked them for their proof of who they were and what right they had to stop us. They couldn’t provide this. They took photos of us and we walked on, up a steep red-dirt track, past tall red cedars, one of them with its buttress torn off. Up to the top of the ridge where we found devastation. Bent and broken palms, trampled, bare ground, and many, many logs in piles beside two huge machines, one of them with a claw-like appendage on the front of it, that had a chainsaw attached to the side. Not dissimilar to Dr.Seuss’s super axe-hacker.
This was a ‘selective harvest’ conducted by Forestry Corporation (what used to be State Forests) on private land.
What followed was three weeks of hell. Our peaceful home and community was transformed into something like a warzone. Emergency meetings were held, Facebook info pages made, protesting began at the entry gate and on the property. People struggled to get their heads around what was happening, how and why. Huge machinery traveled up and down our road with a noisy roar. People were tense, upset, confused, angry … sometimes taking it out on each other – there was shouting and crying. Police vehicles were in abundance. And those ubiquitous white utes, with men in fluorescent green shirts in stark contrast to the uniform of the ‘black wallabies’ with their dreadlocks and camo gear.
Meanwhile, a small group of people (myself included) were trying to establish communication with the landholders, to convey our community’s distress and confusion, our desire for consultation, for better process. We managed to get a meeting with two of the owners and they agreed to allow experts of our choosing to go on and do threatened species surveys – something that the Code of Practice for private native logging does not require. This was a small but significant win, but it was hampered by the determination of the owners/Forestry to continue with the work over the weekend while these surveys were conducted. The community and other protestors were frustrated by this limited success, and we were even seen as traitors by some, for making this ‘deal’.
The conflict intensified. I felt torn and head-fucked and heartbroken in my efforts to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the situation. I began to see that the landholders, whether it was intentional or not, had in some ways contributed to a ‘divide and conquer’ scenario which seemed to have us all too busy fighting amongst ourselves, while the trees kept falling. People got exhausted, totally stressed out. Every spare waking instant was being given to this thing. Families were fraying (it was school holidays), work and income compromised.
Jinker-load, after jinker-load roared past out home. A tight system of intense felling, followed by a convoy of trucks and intense police presence to move the logs out en-masse, was put in place. The days when this happened were the worst. Twelve huge trucks accompanied by riot squad, paddywagons, police dirt-bikes and many Forestry utes would descend upon our community and it felt and looked exactly like an invasion.

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